I have had Bipolar Disorder since I was twenty years old. I was diagnosed then after some very radical behaviors and being put in the hospital against my will. At the time I was involved in the church and that was my life. However, that quickly changed when the Pastor got ‘wind’ of my illness.
The Pastor was quick to say I was a bitter woman and that’s why I had what was wrong with me. I wasn’t spiritually right with God. Mental illness is from the devil. I think you can get the picture here.
The Pastor obviously was not educated about mental illnesses and refused to be educated. The types of churches I was involved in at the time were very right wing and very close-minded. I quickly decided that I had something wrong with me spiritually. I was also crushed that my own Pastor wouldn’t support me during one of the most hellish times in my life. It took me a long time to realize there was nothing wrong with me other than the Bipolar disorder which is something I can’t control on my own.
Fast forward to today. I still have a Pastor who thinks mental illness can be controlled by the person. I am here to tell you that I personally can’t control it without medication. I asked my Pastor what the difference was between diabetes and mental illness. He was quick to judge that mental illness was still a spiritual problem. I promptly disagreed and walked away.
Right now, we aren’t in church at all. We also have an nine-year old son who is mentally ill. He has been out of control since he was three years old. We have been judged a zillion times over him and his behaviors that we KNOW he can NOT control. We have tried to explain it to those in the church without any success. Curtis is suffering and I have suffered with mental illness and it’s not fair that we are judged as a result.
Now, remember, this is MY experience. Maybe there are some out there who have had a different experience in church. I hope there are many of you who have had a positive experience.
We really need to get the word out to these churches. But how do we do that? I am not so sure how. Maybe you have good ideas. Most of these Pastors and workers are uneducated in the field of mental illness and refuse to learn about it. I have no idea why. Maybe they are scared of it. Maybe they will realize they have a family member or themselves are afflicted.
I personally can’t stand the judgement. Curtis is now in residential care again due to his illness. It’s awful to watch him suffer the way that he does. We love him so much and the 10% of the time he’s happy we enjoy that with all our hearts. He is such a sweet kid and doesn’t deserve to be judged and neither do I or anybody else.
Next time you are in church and you are judged because of your illness my advice is to really think it through first before you approach the Pastor or worker. I just don’t tell anybody anymore. When I have been in the hospital my husband just keeps it quiet and tells others my medications need switched and the hospital is the only place to do that safely. I love that he says that.
I hope in the future that some of these Pastors and workers will get educated and stop judging and out-casting those who are suffering with these types of illnesses.
We are people too and deserve to be understood.